The Sciences

Midwest megameteor makes media madness

Bad AstronomyBy Phil PlaitNov 22, 2009 7:00 PM


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[For those complaining about my title, I said "midwest" because the meteor was seen as far east as Colorado, which sits on the west/midwest border, and, duh, I needed a word that started with "M".] By now you've probably heard of the extremely bright fireball over Utah last Wednesday, proving once again that really cool stuff happens when I'm on travel and can't write about it. Worse, it was seen from Denver, which means I might've had a shot at seeing it myself. Sigh. Anyway, this meteor was so bright it overexposed security cameras, turned night into day, and cast obvious shadows on the ground. This video shows several different views of it: Whoa. The coolest thing about these videos is, to me, the way the shadows of objects move rapidly around as the meteor flashes across the sky. I describe this very thing in the opening vignette of the asteroid impact chapter of my book Death from the Skies! The video is pretty much exactly as I imagined it would be. Yikes. Of course, not everyone thinks this was just a chunk of rock burning up harmlessly in our atmosphere. Because, after all, why assume it was a natural event that occurs quite often, when you can add layers of nonsense and conspiracy to it? Fark alerted me to the idea that this was actually a nuclear missile shot down over the US, despite the video, pictures, and eyewitness accounts completely contradicting the idea that this was anything other than a meteor. But for some people, facts won't get in the way of a good story! Anyway, while spectacular, the Earth is probably subjected to meteors like this several times a year. As I have said before, now that we have security cameras and phones with video, we'll be seeing more and more of videos like this, which is a good thing: it'll make people more aware of the sky. I'm all for that!

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